Sunderland remain unbeaten in the league but yet again had to come from behind to salvage a point after drawing 1 – 1 with Fleetwood at the SOL on Saturday. Another slow start from the lads saw the visitors race into an early lead through Paddy Madden but we eventually drew level through Josh Maja. Fleetwood missed an early second half penalty after Jon McLaughlin became the first Sunderland goal keeper to save a penalty at the SOL but despite this Sunderland couldn’t capitalise and press for a winner after another disappointing performance.
Sunderland went into the game having slipped to fourth after last Saturday’s draw with Oxford where a point turned out to be a decent result considering we played for the majority of the game with ten men. Jack Ross and Sunderland appealed the decision to show midfielder Max Power a straight red card for a challenge on the half way line but this was rejected and the suspensions stands.
Fleetwood headed north to Wearside having enjoyed a good opening to the season under the stewardship of wordsmith, philosopher and thug Joey Barton. If I was a betting man I would suggest that Barton had done Jack Ross’ team talk for him in the Build up to the game by stating that man for man Fleetwood were better than Sunderland.
There was better news on the injury front with Adam Matthews and Glenn Loovens nearing returns although Bryan Oviedo was missing on international duty for Costa Rica. Ross made four changes to the side that drew with Oxford as Hume, Loovens, Matthews and McGeouch started in place of Ozturk, Love, Oviedo and Power.
We kicked off towards the North Stand after losing the toss and had a great chance early on after a good cross from Hume found Gooch but the American hit the side netting. Fleetwood responded and had a chance after five minutes thanks to some lapse Sunderland defending but Baldwin eventually cleared after McLaughlin was caught out of position. The visitors then forced a corner which Honeyman put out for another from which the visitors took the lead. The ball was swung in from the right-hand corner and Sunderland's defence slept and allowed Madden to power a free header into the back of the net.
The visitors had another good chance on twenty minutes when a cross from the left dropped to Ched Evans at the back post who looked offside. The linesman didn’t flag however, and the former Sheffield United striker slashed at the ball and missed the target.
Sunderland forced a corner on twenty-five minutes, but it was taken short and horrendously wasted with a deep cross from Matthews. It was a really slow start from Sunderland with Fleetwood much the better side. After half an hour we won a free kick on the edge of the box when Gooch was fouled on a decent surge forward, but Maguire’s shot was hit straight into the wall before he sliced then follow up wide.
We fashioned our best effort five minutes later after Gooch and Honeyman combined to tee up Maja who dragged a left footed effort wide. We followed up with another effort after a cross from the right found Cattermole, but he nodded over under pressure. Sunderland drew level two minutes later after Josh Maja again found the back of the net. George Honeyman did well on the left flank to skip a challenge and cross for Maja to bundle a left footed volley into the bottom right hand corner.
The goal seemed to spring Sunderland into life and we forced a corner which was cleared only as for as Matthews who forced the keeper into a decent stop. Five minutes before the break Matthews tried an audacious effort volleying Hume‘s cross at goal and only just missing the target from the edge of the box. Just before the break the visitors had a chance to retake the lead after Evans skinned two Sunderland defenders and broke into the box before going down looking for a penalty. The ref waved away the protests before McLaughlin held a tame shot from the other Fleetwood striker.
Neither side made any changes at the break and we got off to the worst possible start in the second half after Matthews conceded a penalty two minutes after the restart but McLaughlin made a great save down to his left. This promoted Ross into his first change of the game as he replaced Maguire with Sinclair.
With half an hour to go we had a great chance to take the lead when a cross from the left found Baldwin unmarked in the six-yard box with the goal gaping but he stabbed the ball wide. Ross made his second change soon after with Chris Maguire replacing Josh Maja as Sunderland went in search of the win.
The game fizzled out for a bit with neither side creating any openings as the visitors seems to be happy with a point whilst Sunderland were enforced into a final change with twenty minutes remaining with Flanagan replacing the injured Matthews. We forced a succession of corners the second of which Flanagan had a sight of goal, but he headed wide.
At the other end it was Fleetwood who forced a few corners and McLaughlin had to be on hand to tip a looping header over the bar. Sunderland responded with ten minutes remaining forcing a load of corners, but we couldn’t make the breakthrough the closest we came was Baldwin drilling a cross along the six yard box with no one on hand to connect with.
With five minutes to play Sunderland piled on the pressure and should have took the lead but the Fleetwood keeper made a string of saves. First, he denied a header from Baldwin and then turning Sinclair’s effort round the post. From the corner we had another chance, but the keeper again denied us.
There was four minutes of injury time and in the first of these Sinclair used his pace to win a free kick on the right-hand side of the box but Honeyman wasted it by floating it into the box. At the death the visitors almost won it when the left winger got in on goal but McLaughlin was equal to it.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Fleetwood 1
ALS Man of the Match: Jon McLaughlin, first keeper to save a penalty at the SOL (other than a shoot out)